USA TODAY Sports
Pistons coach still struggling to answer questions about Andre Drummond's lack of playing time. Says a team cannot prioritize developing players and attempting to win at the same time.
MAJOR UPDATE: The premise of this article appears to be based on a misquote from Lawrence Frank. Originally, it was reported that Lawrence Frank said, "You can't both develop players and try to win," and the initial headline reflected such. According to the intrepid crew at PistonPowered, Keith Langlois had a similar quote as the one used by Vince Goodwill at The Detroit News but said "can" instead of "can't." Goodwill later confirmed his "can't" was a typo that made it into the published version.
Needless to say, that changes the entire meaning of Frank's message.
The headline has been updated to reflect the correct version of the quote. Instead of deleting the post or crossing out the irrelevant material (aka most of it), I'll let the post stand as a way to sort of kick off how to balance winning vs. developing and how the Pistons' rookies and other young guys play into that mix.
Hopefully fans that were about to unleash the official LFIAFI campaign can now walk off the ledge and take a breath.
I think this might stir up some strong feelings among the non-BWAC who follow the Pistons.
"Just because you throw a guy out there for 30 minutes, that could be the worst thing you could do because it could reinforce all the bad habits," Frank said. "If he's not doing what he should be doing, how can you look at the guys in your locker room and say you're about the right things? You can't both develop players and try to win."
It's so close to being true and then becomes disastrously false at the end.
Let's start off where I think Frank gets it exactly right: it might backfire to play a young guy if it only reinforces his bad habits.
This isn't a charge I would level at Drummond, per se, but only because it is hard to say definitely how he would react one way or the other. But the past is littered with obviously talented players who succeeded with natural ability but never reached their full potential because they either 1. didn't put the work in or 2. couldn't shake some fundamental bad habits.
Already this season we have seen Drummond make his share of mistakes. Bad goal-tending calls, getting lost on defense, etc. And we don't know if these mistakes show up even more or even less when the Pistons hit the practice floor.
There is a time and place for a player to learn through his mistakes on the floor. But there is also setting a foundation, especially with such a young player. If the organization is slow playing Drummond so that they establish good practice habits, good communication, good work ethic, etc. then I have absolutely no problem with that.
But then Frank goes on to say that it's not really about that. Instead it's about doing what is best to help the team win.
A few reactions to that:
1. Brandon Knight led the team in minutes last season despite so obviously struggling as a point guard. It made sense even though it was quite a bitter amount of porridge to take at the time. The team committed to him despite the obvious fact that it inhibited their chances at winning.
2. Conversely, perhaps Brandon Knight of last season and this season has been a lesson learned for Frank. Perhaps his frustration level is rising with Knight's persistent lack of development in "point guardy things." Maybe the way they are bringing along Drummond this season is an admission that the way they developed Knight last season was a mistake.
3. Regardless, developing players should be a top priority of Pistons as it is for other teams -- both good and bad. Plenty of quality teams find ways to work in young players. Look at the Spurs. Look at the Mavericks. Look at Denver. Teams do this all the time both because they have to and because they know it is good in the long-run.
4. Andre Drummond makes the team better RIGHT NOW. Look, I'm all on board the Jason Maxiell, baby-eating, contract-year train. I don't think he has earned losing minutes. But Andre Drummond has certainly earned MOAR minutes.
But that is almost beside the point. Let's take Frank at his word. Let's assume that the Pistons have two options. One or the other. Black or white. Win or lose. Develop or ... what, playoffs?
Doubtful. The team is 6-14. The playoffs are the longest of long shots even considering we're only at the one-quarter mark of the season. Let's say 39 wins is good enough to grab the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Are the Pistons as currently constructed really able to go 33-27 the rest of the way?
So if I have to vote for one or the other, I would definitely vote for developing Andre Drummond. I would vote for developing Kyle Singler. I say lets see what you have in Kim English, Khris Middleton and even Austin Daye. Play the vets -- Maxiell, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey -- as much as you need to help them solidify the trade value it appears they have accrued this season but prioritize the young guys.
Hell, I would certainly vote for letting Brandon Knight continue to sink or swim at PG so it helps inform offseason plans. Knight, because of his scoring ability and youth, will still have enough trade value for someone to take a flier on him. And the Pistons will have enough money freed up to perhaps solve their myriad backcourt issues and be confident in knowing if Knight is part of the solution or not.